Hurricane Matthew Response
In early October 2016, the Category 5 Hurricane Matthew ravaged through much of the Caribbean, including Haiti’s Southern Peninsula. As the primary hospital and referral center in the region, Saint Boniface Haiti was on the front lines protecting the infrastructure and health of the people of southern Haiti.
October 2016: Immediate Response
In late September, our team received warning that a tropical storm was moving in from the Atlantic, and barrelling towards Haiti’s Southern Peninsula. After surviving the Haiti Earthquake in 2010, and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, our team faced the threat of another natural disaster with both strategy and apprehension. On October 1, SBHF heeded the warning of meteorological professionals by boarding up windows, clearing the campus of loose objects, and stocking up on fuel, water, and food. Many beds and patients were moved to our Maternal and Neonatal Health Center and our Surgical Center, which were already constructed to withstand hurricane-force winds.
The hurricane tore through Fond-des-Blancs through October 4th. As the winds died down, our staff began assessing the area: receiving reports of washed out roads and destroyed homes, we mobilized efforts to get immediate aid to those who needed it. SBHF suffered little structural damage, and our staff was all reported safe.
Our CEO, Conor Shapiro, helped to explain the effects of the disaster:
By October 7th, SBHF joined a handful of other local organizations that began to provide on the ground insight to major international aid agencies, including the World Food Programme, PAHO, and USAID. Our experience of over 30 years in Southern Haiti meant that our staff went into the period of hurricane response with a deep knowledge of the region, and we quickly shared what we knew
Long Term Efforts
After the immediate effects of the storm passed, and we could confirm that all our current patients and staff had survived, SBHF officially mobilized around three main areas of hurricane response: cholera prevention & treatment; emergency aid distribution in our immediate area; and mobile clinics which travel to remote areas that were hardest hit by the hurricane. This was in addition to our core work serving as the main referral hospital for the region, and the only fully functioning hospital in the area that was hit by the hurricane.
Funded by a grant from UNICEF, SBHF sent mobile clinic teams into the region most affected by the hurricane. Two teams of doctors and nurses reached some of the most remote communities, many of which had never seen a doctor before. They saw over 15,000 patients in two rounds of clinics over 10 months. 7,300 children were seen by a medical professional, with 1,285 receiving routine vaccinations and boosters. The SBHF team also trained a group of 26 new Community Health workers to serve these communities, and did refresher trianings for 28 existing Community Health Workers. These CHWs will continue to serve their communities, providing care and referrals to St. Boniface and smaller local clinics as needed.
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